DISC D: Johnny Ma. Canada/China. 80 min. Sep 14, 6:15 pm, Scotiabank 4 Sep 15, 3:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3. Rating: NNN
Ma’s ambitious feature debut will tie your stomach in knots and make you question everything from moral responsibility to individualism in the new China.
Distracted by a drunken fare, a hardworking taxi driver (Chen Gang) accidentally hits a motorcyclist and then, when police fail to arrive, takes him to the hospital, where he becomes responsible for the bills. Enmeshed in bureaucratic red tape and trying to keep it all a secret from his wife, he sets about looking for a witness to prove his innocence, but no one wants to get involved.
Ma has problems with tone, and the accident could have been better set up. But Chen’s put-upon Everyman is extremely engaging even though his character takes a few unconvincing swerves in the melodramatic final reel.